Fun with Googling Colors

I was on the phone with Friend of IBD Howard Aprill not long ago, when he described something as being the color “vermillion.” Because Shea and I are going to present a graphic design workshop this summer at Wehr Nature Center in Milwaukee, where Howard works, and because I am a graphic designer, I felt I should know what color vermillion was. Rather than ask, I changed the subject of the conversation to baseball and on the side, quietly Googled “What color is vermillion?”

Of course, the rest of my afternoon was shot. I’ve always wanted to know the difference between sea foam…

…and sea mist. (Not much.)

Or the difference between cerulean…

…and manganese. (Cerulean’s a little darker, maybe?)

Then, of course, this led to further exploration. (All while Howard and I were still talking, mind you. This may explain why I apparently agreed to sing “I’m a Little Teacup” during our workshop in Milwaukee this summer.) What if you Googled “What color is [something that is not a color]?” Some (but not all) of these turned up interesting results.

What color is nature? (I thought this would come back overwhelmingly green. Kind of refreshing that it did not.)

What color is energy?

What color is Greece?

What color is New Jersey?

And, of course, this led to even more exploration. (At this point in the conversation, evidently, I’ve agreed to buy everyone Brewers tickets and wear a T-shirt that says “I’m Ryan Braun’s pharmacist” to the game.) I took a few of the screen captures above and uploaded them to my favorite color-palette generator, Kuler, which I wrote about way back when.

Here’s what I got for vermillion:



Nature (I love this one):

And New Jersey:

I think what this amounts to is a kind of fun, Internet-based brainstorming—and sometimes it works better than others. I would never commit myself to generating a color palette for a project exclusively using this method, but the results that it returns could be a springboard for thinking about colors in ways that you haven’t before.

I plan to explore this more in the future, and I’d love to see some of the results IBD readers come up with in the comments of this post. In the meantime, I have to figure out why my presenter’s agreement with the Wehr Nature Center says I’m doing Howard Aprill’s laundry.

13 thoughts on “Fun with Googling Colors

  1. Fascinating way to spend time while on the phone, Paul! Two quick thoughts:

    1. Google gives you different results when you spell “color” the correct (I.e. Canadian) way – “colour”
    2. I did a google image search for “What colour are people?” and I received a photo of Keanu Reeves. Thanks for ruining my day.

  2. Interesting idea, search, and results. You forgot the 3 most important ones, nerd, geek, and baseball. I thought that there would be images of Paul in all 3 searches, and Shea in at least 2 of the searches. However, the image search results were not as good as the examples you showed us. The Kuler examples remind me of Rubics Cube, so I guess the nerd/geek factor is still there.

  3. Cal, I’m sorry I made you see a picture of Keanu Reeves. Some of the color searches I did I could not screen capture because they turned up not-safe-for-work images, but I never thought I’d inadvertently make someone Google Neo.

    Jeff, I ran your images through Kuler and came up with these.

  4. Makes me think of this excerpt from The Devil Wears Prada, starring Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs and Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly:”Miranda Priestly: [Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same] Something funny? Andy Sachs: No. No, no. Nothing’s… You know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. You know, I’m still learning about all this stuff and, uh… Miranda Priestly: ‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff. “

  5. Thank you for wasting half of my morning too. What color is the Grand Canyon? Depending on where you sample from in Kuler, it has a lot more cool colors than you might think.

  6. Thanks Paul!
    Of course I couldn’t resist googling my site and wouldn’t you know; Shea showed up in my search. I guess now you know how to find him on Image Search Jeff. 😉

  7. The color of chocolate–I went with the dark mood setting and cropped my screenshot to only include the actual images.

  8. Cool, Amanda!

    And yes, that’s an important point you make about uploading to Kuler. If you upload the images without cropping, you get the answer to “What is the color of my web browser interface?” Which is not nearly as interesting.

Comments are closed.